Marie Jost of Wisconsin has been missing for 30 years. But that has not stopped relatives from allegedly cashing her Social Security checks, reports say.
Jost's son, Charles T. Jost, 66; daughter, Dolores M. Disher, 69; and son-in-law Ronald Disher, 71, each face theft and fraud charges as Portage County sheriffs dig for Jost's possible remains on her ramshackle three-acre property in Amherst, Wisc. A cadaver-sniffing dog seemed to be on to something but didn't produce immediate results, the Associated Press reported.
Marie Jost would have turned 101 in October. Investigators believe she is no longer alive, and suspect she died in 1982 when she was last seen, the AP reported.
Despite the extra cash, Charles Jost wasn't living large at his mother's tarp-covered shack. One investigator told AP the rural property looked like a " 'Hoarders' episode gone bad." But prosecutors believe Charles Jost and the other two family members pocketed $175,000 of Jost's Social Security benefits. Authorities said they discovered $9,000 in the home plus $8,000 at Disher's home, WSAW reported.
All three are in the Portage County Jail in Stevens Point, Wisc., Portage County Sheriff's Office Captain Cory Nelson told The Huffington Post.
The allegations emerged amid a CNN report on a newer kind of Social Security fraud, in which identity thieves simply reroute a victim's benefits electronically to their own bank accounts.
But in the Jost case, reports indicate that her kin allegedly stole the money the old-fashioned way: by forgery through the mail.
Despite no record of Marie Jost using medical benefits since 1980, officials appeared to have no clue of any possible scam until Aug. 30. That's when a Social Security Administration official contacted police to say that Jost's benefit checks were being cashed by an unfamiliar person, NBC reported.
Investigators followed up at her address and had a hostile encounter with Charles Jost, according to accounts. He told investigators that his mom and his other brother, Theodore, were on a trip, police said.
When police then asked Charles Jost if Marie Jost was dead, and he got agitated and asked them to leave. Neighbors told police that they had not seen Marie Jost or Theodore Jost in their 20 years living next door.
In a separate housecall, Ronald Disher, the accused son-in-law, pulled a knife on investigators, WSAW reported.
All three appeared in court for the first time on Monday. Charles Jost is being examined for competency, according to the TV station.